Cause marketing. Corporate social responsibility. Purpose marketing. Consumption philanthropy. Community relations.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s been a part of restaurant marketing since the first restaurants were opened. In the beginning, it was just about taking care of your neighbors—chefs sharing a bit of the bounty with those who might go hungry without. In the 70s, 7-Eleven saw the potential to connect giving back with marketing—tying donations to Slurpee purchases. Since then, it seems like no good deed has gone unannounced.
Today, restaurants are like any other business; giving back but also looking for marketing benefits. Share our Strength has perfectly captured the current mix of consumption and philanthropy: donate to No Kid Hungry today, get something free tomorrow. It’s the perfect message and we just took it to the next level with Wetzel’s Pretzels. In their second year of the program, Wetzel’s raised over $140,000 — that turns into 1.4 MILLION meals for hungry kids. We rallied influencers and celebs (Rachel Bloom to help spread the word on social, garnering thousands of impressions and picking up more than a few followers along the way. That’s a win-win.
Restaurants are inundated with requests ranging from donations to the local elementary school’s PTA auction to big-picture causes like breast cancer awareness in October (or do we mean Pinktober?). The key to achieving the win-win is focusing on causes that are meaningful to both you and your customers, and that align with your business. Feeding hungry kids is almost always a win, but focusing on environmental causes might not be a fit for a burger joint, and slapping a pink cocktail on the menu in October to raise awareness— but not money— will have people questioning your motives. Knowing when to say yes is the key to getting the win-win-win.
By the way, if you win a trivia contest with your newfound knowledge of the role 7-Eleven played in creating the cause marketing genre, give us a shout-out.